A Recap of our 80th Anniversary

The Nature Lab just finished celebrating its 80th year with the closing of Biodesign: From Inspiration to Integration, an exhibition curated in collaboration with William Myers. Biodesign looked to the future to decipher how our complex relationship with nature might evolve, a fitting culmination to the 80th anniversary programming series that began with the founder Edna W. Lawrence’s vision for the institution.

During her 50+ year tenure, Miss Lawrence introduced students to a way of seeing nature (and its details) as fundamental forms and patterns in art and design. She valued object-based learning, close-looking, and interdisciplinary thought. While her shells, insects, plants, animals, bones, textiles, ceramics, wood, and more have catalyzed creativity for students each year, Miss Lawrence's lifelong endeavor resulted in a significant resource for the RISD community, and a legacy that continues to grow today.

The 80th anniversary celebration featured 20 events, ranging from exhibitions such as Latin-American Collection Exhibition: aka "The Greatest Show on Earth" curated by Oswaldo Chinchilla [BFA '21 ID CER] to an entire symposium on biodesign. Some highlights from the year include:

Patterns Inconceivable: the History and Influence of the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab

Patterns Inconceivable ran from Sept 7–Dec 15, 2017 at RISD Fleet Library and made connections between Edna Lawrence’s ideas and the Nature Lab’s advancements in recent years. Combining collections from the Lab with records from RISD’s Archives, the exhibition traced Edna’s development of the Lab, from her idiosyncratic acquisition records to her extensive travels. The exhibition also presented selections from the variety of collections that had become part of the Nature Lab over the years.


Tribute Booth: Anecdotes about Miss Lawrence and the Nature Lab

We had a wonderful response at 2017's RISD Weekend events that kicked off our 80th year. The Weekend featured workshops, lectures, exhibitions, field trips and conversations around how the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab began and what we're planning for the future. During the Tribute Booth, several alums were interviewed and reflected on their experience at the Nature Lab. Click the link above to hear the stories!


Graduate Liason Fall Workshop Series

Led by Maria Eugenia Moya Martinez [MFA '18 SC], Adam Chuong [MID '19], Peter Lokken [MFA '18 FURN], and Kylie King [MDes '18], these workshops invited members of the RISD community to grow crystals, experiment with bioplastics, and make paper using invasive species.
Read the full story here.


The Nature Lab: An homage to the RISD Nature Lab and its founder Edna Lawrence

Curated by RISD Alumnus Eric Wolf, this group exhibition featured contemporary work by 92 artists and ran from Feb 17–Mar 17, 2018. The selections for this show represented nature in widely varying ways across an extensive spectrum of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, video, installation, photography, and even writing. The result was a salon-style installation that felt richly colored, textured, and patterned, much like the Nature Lab itself.


Salon: RISD's Nature Lab and the vision of founder Edna W. Lawrence

The Providence Athenaeum's April 6th Salon brought together three panelists to discuss the significance of Edna Lawrence’s vision from their respective disciplines. Entomologist David Wagner discussed the role of color and pattern in nature; Nature Lab Coordinator Betsy Ruppa regaled with stories about the origins of the natural history collection and its value to an art school; and Senior Critic in RISD’s Experimental and Foundation Studies department Alba Corrado shared memories of Edna Lawrence as one of her former students. The salon also served as the opening of the Observing Nature: Edna Lawrence & Cabinets of Curiosities exhibit in the Philbrick Rare Book Room.


Nature Lab Workshop Series: MACRO

On May 4, the Nature Lab invited the RISD community to explore color, pattern, and structure in natural specimens through multiple scales. Participants learned to use different imaging systems—from the stereoscope to SEM microscopy to the Lab’s recently acquired Macropod—to photograph specimens magnified 40x to 40,000x!


Completion of the Biodesign Makerspace

Starting with the installation of the Living Wall in 2017 followed by two INTAR studios (Designing with Nature and ADv) and a summer build led by Jen Bissonnette and Eduardo Duarte, students designed and constructed the new Makerspace. Projects completed include the biophilic ceiling, nesting tables that pivot around the room's columns, a biomorphic work bench, and cabinetry with custom cork countertops and mycelium detailing. Funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the space will test the impacts of biophilic design in an educational setting and provide a STEAM makerspace for working with nature's technologies.

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The RISD Nature Lab is an EPSCoR|C-AIM Core Research Facility supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #OIA-1655221 and EAGER Grant Award #1723559. ​​​Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed on this site are those of the Nature Lab and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.​

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